Category Music

Doris Day: Queen of Eternal Sunshine

The trouble with Doris Day—besides the wreck of her marital life that left her at various times by various husbands abused physically, emotionally and financially—was that she never stopped sounding and looking and being, at least outwardly, so darn nice. Still is, actually, as evidenced by a nice, if characteristically formulaic, written interview she gave to “The Hollywood Reporter” on her 97th birthday three days ago.

That niceness of the midwestern, sunnyblonde film star who wore a relentless effervescent smile was a problem for Day chiefly because it tended to obscure just what a fabulous singer she was.

No one mistakes, say, Nina Simone, as anything but a kickass singing talent, all that smoldering, sometimes volcanic expulsion of words and emotion cementing her place in history as a singer of extraordinary passion and skill.

Day, however, exuded such an overt “America’s sweetheart” ki...

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Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

I came across this song just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Facebook friend Eric Gray, who had just organized a house concert by Chuck Brodsky in San Francisco. Eric is a music guy, as well as a baseball guy (powerful combo…), so I of course investigated Mr. Brodsky, went on You Tube, and here we are, with Brilliant Song #6 in this occasional series.

Ironically, I was moved to write about it when checking in, as a kind of pop culture imperative, with the Super Bowl halftime show the other day.

When a band I had never heard of, Maroon 5, and its lead singer started prancing around the stage, with the singer ripping his shirt off to reveal his gym physique and every-square-millimeter-of-skin-tattoos as the young ‘uns who were herded onto the field for the occasion jumped up and down around him on cue in the usual highly staged, ridiculous-looking scene, vapid, showy and just all around fake as can be, I thou...

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A Happy New Year Gift From Eric Clapton

Last year, I offered up in this space on New Year’s morning a gift from the gods as they manifested (and continue to resound) through Ludwig van Beethoven and his “Ode to Joy.” And if there’s one bit of wisdom I’ve been able to accrue from my thrashings and bumblings about on Mother Earth over this now long-ish life, it is never to allow a good time or idea to go slinking off by itself into the dusky past.

Instead, just slap a “Hey, what a lovely ritual!” or “But it’s a tradition!” tag on it so we have an excuse to celebrate the wonderful again…and again.

So: Another New Year’s gift, slow forwarded a few hundred years from Beethoven to one of our own epoch’s musical geniuses, Eric Clapton, picking and singing his way through a tender song with the help of a few cherished friends.

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Sometimes the trappings of fame and the tragedies of loss manage to sink the most stout tale...

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Brilliant Songs #5: Brandy Clark’s “What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven”

Ran into Brandy Clark last night. Well, not on the sidewalk or at the grocery, but on the Internet, as I was thinking and listening hard to a bunch of songs by Loretta Lynn. Then something or other happened in that way the world of links works, and suddenly, here was this youngish (43) singer-songwriter hailing from rural Washington, saying hello via the dozen songs from her 2013 debut album, “12 Stories.”

Talk about an unbidden fall harvest. These are tales of flesh-and-blood people, mostly working-class, often plain beyond imagining, but no less engaged in the struggle to get some type of lasso around their world and bring it to heel. What complicates things is that the lasso is often frayed, as are their reflexes and nerves.

I found myself considering half a dozen or more songs that could have worked for inclusion in this “Brilliant Songs” series...

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Brilliant Songs #4: Jason Isbell’s “If We Were Vampires”

There are times when a song or a phrase, a picture or a wisp of cloud, a gnarled old tree or a glance from a stranger, hits us like a bomb, but a good kind of bomb—one that shakes us out of the stupor we too often descend into as we forsake sharing with our own lives the precious gift of our true and careful attention.

And so it was, apparently, with rootsy singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and his complete absence from my radar (Just how did that happen?) until late last night when my music aficionado friend Kevin saw fit to send me a link to an Isbell song, and the bomb exploded.

The song—“If We Were Vampires”—helped Isbell and “The 400 Unit” of musicians that serve as his backup band win a trio of awards the other night at the American Honors and Awards Show in Nashville. Best Song, Best Album (which contained the song) and Best Duo-Group of the Year.

All well and good, but in the case of a...

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